Our new book Ramsgate: The Town and its Seaside Heritage allows readers to delve into Ramsgate’s rich history over the past 300 years from home.
This book is part of Ramsgate’s Heritage Action Zone (HAZ), first launched in April 2017. The five-year HAZ initiative aims to encourage economic growth using the historic environment as a catalyst.
From quiet fishing village to prosperous port and popular seaside resort, here are some of Ramsgate’s architectural highlights:
This classical clock house was completed in around 1816 by John Shaw senior. The lower flanking wings housed a warehouse and a carpenter’s workshop.
For many years the building served as the Ramsgate Maritime Museum.
This speculative development was constructed from 1827–36 by the Ramsgate builder James Crisford. Nos 1–19 (originally Liverpool Terrace) are gently curved to maximise views of the Harbour, while Nos 24–33 (Liverpool Place) are squeezed in across the lawn. The group is completed by the stuccoed Nos 20–22 which face seaward.
In the 1840s Ramsgate became a national centre of the Catholic revival due to the efforts of the architect Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812–52).
Pugin was attracted to Ramsgate on the basis of a mixture of personal associations (his mother’s sister lived at Rose Hill Cottage) and religious ones, chiefly its associations with St Augustine of Canterbury.
St Augustine’s Church (1845–51) was conceived not as a family chapel but as a Catholic church for Ramsgate. It was a courageous decision at a time when the re-establishment of the Catholic hierarchy in England prompted widespread anti-Catholic sentiment.
As the town expanded in the 1840s, subscriptions were raised for new churches. Conceived in an anti-Catholic climate, Christ Church (1846–8) was intended to counter the local influence of A W N Pugin.
It was designed by Gothic Revival architect (Sir) George Gilbert Scott (1811–78) in 1846-7.
The harbour contains many listed buildings including the Sailors’ Home and Harbour mission, opened in 1878 – a simple church with a hostel above it – and the Smack Boys’ Home, a hostel for the young crew of the local fishing smacks, opened in 1881 and operated until 1915.
One of the boldest gestures of Ramsgate’s turn-of-the-century renewal was the sweeping away of the range containing Wyatt’s pier house, harbour master’s house and warehouses, and its replacement in 1894–5 with a new custom house.
Built in 1894–5 for a cost of £3,800 by the Margate contractors Paramor & Sons, the custom house formed part of a programme of seafront improvement works overseen by the borough engineer W A McIntosh Valon.
East Court, of 1889–90 by Ernest George and Harold Peto, is a fine example of the vernacular revival style and one of Kent’s finest Arts & Craft houses.
It was built for the businessman and philanthropist William Henry Wills, first Baron Winterstoke. He bequeathed the house to his adoptive niece, Dame Janet Stancomb-Wills, Ramsgate’s benefactor and first woman mayor.
In 1930, in response to the new Housing Act, the borough surveyor drew up a five-year programme of slum clearance and ‘improvement areas.’
The West Dumpton housing scheme was completed in 1938, rehousing 100 families from slum clearance areas. A distinctive block of flats sits on Ellen Avenue, built for older couples, named after Ellen Nixon, a former mayoress of Ramsgate.
Although centred on London’s South Bank, the 1951 Festival of Britain was a national celebration with exhibitions and associated events across the country.
It inspired a number of related celebrations around the country, including a ‘Festival of Light’ in Ramsgate. Announced in December 1950, the scheme was to cost more than £12,500 and designed to highlight the geography of the town.
Three illuminated fountains extended from the Granville Theatre on the East Cliff to the Concert Hall on the West Cliff. This is the sole survivor of the three, original fountains.
Sports hall, Chatham House School
Chatham House School, Ramsgate’s longest-established educational
institution, was rebuilt in 1879–82 under the direction of the headmaster and owner, the Revd E Gripper Banks.
In 1884 the school gained playing fields through the purchase of part of the grounds of Townley Castle to the north. Completed in 1962 to designs by Kent County Council’s architect’s department, this sports hall occupies the former grounds of Townley Castle.
This blog draws on our publication Ramsgate: The Town and its Seaside Heritage. Photographs taken by Chris Redgrave.